The world we live in is desperate for peace. And this is not a new thing. The search for peace has been going on for many years. Think about the headlines you just saw – those were just from the last 100 years and the theme of peace and a world that needs it are constant. And this was true of the world prior to that – going all the way back to Jesus birth. You see the world has been desperate for peace since the minute Adam and Eve ate that fruit in the garden and sin entered the world and God’s dream for us was compromised. Ever since that pivotal moment God has been pursuing His people and the broken world they live in with His peace. The story we are going to look at today is another piece of God’s story – a narrative about God’s continued and constant quest to restore humankind to His intentions which includes peace – with God, with ourselves and with each other.
Doesn’t that sound good about now? Peace with God, with ourselves and between people? I can’t think of anything I want more – a better Christmas gift – than peace – for me – for you – for the world. And in a moment, we will look at how that can happen for all of us. But first – would you pray with me?
But I digress. We are in the middle of our series “A Thrill of Hope” – looking at several stories from the book of Luke – all of the stories surround Jesus birth and look at different characters that were all searching for something specific. And what I love about these stories and the whole story of the birth of Christ is that it is part of a much bigger story. A story that we are a part of today. The story of God. It started with creation and continues today with the church – His church – His people – continuing to do His work of restoring the whole world to God’s dream – to His intentions. (remember Barry’s timeline from 2 weeks ago). And we get to be a part of that story. When I sit and really take that all in – it is completely overwhelming – we are a part of a story that God started so long ago. We are a part of God’s story. Isn’t that incredible? And the story of Jesus birth – his life – his ministry – his death and resurrection are right in the middle of this God narrative. I’m going to get a little drama on you here – if this story were a play – we would say that Jesus birth life death and resurrection were the climax or turning point of the story this far. That the whole old testament was the rising action to this moment in the story and everything after Christ’s resurrection is the falling action or the denouement. The story of Jesus is the height of the story. The pivotal moment. The moment a whole nation of people had been waiting for – searching for – longing for. The title of the series explains it all – as Tim told us last week that the original meaning of the word thrill meant to puncture something – to break thru a hard surface. And that is exactly what the birth of Jesus did – it broke thru a hard and weary world with hope. A thrill of hope. And the stories we’ve looked at this month leading up to Christmas have been stories of what the world had been longing for hoping for then and now.
We began with a longing for salvation for a savior - Zechariah and his realization that the answer for salvation had come in the birth of Jesus and that his son, John the Baptist, was to be a part of the ushering in of the Messiah and then last week we looked at a need for things to be right and good and true – and thru the story of Mary we see that God stands with those who have been humiliated and misunderstood – just as Mary was. And today we will look at another group of people – the shepherds - who are on the search for something specific – something they’ve been promised but haven’t found yet. A need for peace.
I think it’s interesting that I am talking about peace. I don’t think I would be considered necessarily a peaceful person – the attributes one would commonly associate with peace are not often words used to describe me – patient – gentle – meek – mild. But I’m not sure that peace is really a character trait – or that you can tell if someone has peace by their demeanor – not something that someone wears – but more something that you sense or understand about someone. It’s an inner essence. A way that they approach the world. And I hope and pray that in that sense I am for the most part a peaceful person.
And that’s what the shepherds in our story – actually that was something the entire nation of Israel was looking for – that accord love friendship unity union reconciliation order – peace.
Let’s take a look at Luke 2 – starting in verse 8. Page _____________ in the bibles provided or you can look on the Grace app as well. Right before our section begins – Luke has told us about Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus. Let’s pick it up in verse 8 – follow along as I read.
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.
Let’s stop there for a moment
The joyous event was not announced to dignitaries in palaces but to lowly shepherds working the night shift. This is in keeping with what Mary says in Luke 1:52, that God "has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble
They were probably young – teenagers – and considered dishonorable outcasts in Israel. – shows that God uses the downtrodden and the despised to accomplish His will.
Going on to verse 9
9Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified,
One angel at this point – Michael or Gabriel – brilliant light in the middle of darkness symbolizes dawn in the midst of darkness – this brilliance was caused by the glory of the Lord – appeared at critical times in Israelite history -
In the tabernacle in Exodus
At the inauguration of the temple in 1 Kings
When the glory departed the temple in Ezekiel
But now the glory had returned but not in the temple and not to priests or prophets but to ordinary men in a field – Luke is telling us that the story of Israel – God’s story will now be continued thru Jesus and there’s a new twist to the story – a new day is dawning
And of course, the shepherds were freaking out – I mean come on – I have a 17-year-old son – and if he were out cutting the grass and an angel appeared to him – I’m pretty sure what his reaction would be
I also wonder what an angel appearing meant to the people of this time – I’m sure they had heard OT stories of angels appearing to Moses and Abraham – what did this mean to them?
But right away the angel wants to put them at ease – look at verse 10
but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said.
Right away the angel says – it’s ok – don’t be afraid – I’m not here to harm you It’s the same thing the angel said to Zechariah and Mary – when he appeared – do not be afraid – I come in peace – I bring the opposite of fear – I bring news of peace…
“I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.”
The Angel says – not only will I not harm you but I have good news – the angel is evangelizing to the shepherds – not in the sense of telling them how to surrender to Jesus – but they are sharing a part of the Good News to come – the birth of the one that will make the true good news possible - foreshadowing – the good news that we still have today – great news – and this good news is for all people – and again the fact that it is being told first to a group of teenage shepherd boys is proof of that – this news is for everyone – no one is excluded
The OT proclaims this good news several times in Isaiah
Chapter 40 verse 9:
O Zion, messenger of good news,
shout from the mountaintops!
Shout it louder, O Jerusalem.[a]
Shout, and do not be afraid.
Tell the towns of Judah,
“Your God is coming!”
Chapter 52 verse 7
How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who brings good news,
the good news of peace and salvation,
the news that the God of Israel[a] reigns!
Chapter 61 verses 1 and 2
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,
for the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
and to proclaim that captives will be released
and prisoners will be freed.[a]
2He has sent me to tell those who mourn
that the time of the Lord’s favor has come,[b]
This is good news these shepherds – that God’s people had been waiting for for many many years. And it was for all people.
The angel continues with verse 11 and 12 – here is the good news that I’m talking about
11The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
This is the only time in scripture where all 3 of these words are together – Savior – Messiah (Christ) and Lord –
Caesar Augustus – the ruler of Rome - had taken all 3 terms to refer to himself
But you see in the prophecy says in Isaiah 9:6-7
For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor,[d] Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7His government and its peace
will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David
for all eternity.
You see Caesar – there’s a new king in town – a new ruler – one who will deliver His people from your bondage – He will provide and lead them forth into true justice and peace.
Jesus is destined to be the savior – the messiah right from his birth
And he has been born exactly where it was said he would be born – in Bethlehem – the city of David
And then the angel tells them how to find Him – wrapped in strips of cloths and lying in a manger
This is significant
The sign was not necessarily designed to convince the shepherds of the truth of the angelic announcement. Surely the splendor of the angel, compounded by that of the heavenly host, was convincing enough. I believe that this “sign” was for the purpose of identification. From Matthew’s account of the Bethlehem slaughter (Matt. 2:16-18), it is apparent that there were a number of babies in Bethlehem at the time. The way that they would recognize God’s Messiah was by His swaddling clothes and by His unusual “crib.” No other child would be found in such a setting.
And so, the two most pathetic factors in the birth of our Lord, His “swaddling clothes” and His “cattle feeding trough bed,” prove to be the very things which set this child apart from all others, and which identify Him to the shepherds.
But it is more than that – it also reveals that although He is the Messiah – He is the King – he would be for the poor and humble – the kingdom of Christ would be the exact opposite of the kingdoms of this world – like the kingdom of Caesar Augustus that the shepherds were living under.
Let’s continue with verse 13
13Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
I read in one of the commentaries that the angels were not above the shepherds but all around them – the light was surrounding them – on the ground – with them – not high above them – what a beautiful picture
(Aside – when a child was born at this time – family and friends would gather around in the home and sing – since Mary and Joseph weren’t home this didn’t happen for them – but it’s happening in a big way in the field with these shepherds – Jesus had a whole choir of angels singing at His birth)
14“Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
The elusive peace promised by the Roman Empire -the Pax Romana (Peace of Rome) was now being offered through Jesus to all people on earth. This peace was not enforced by power and might – it came thru humility and service – the birth of Jesus was ushering in a new kingdom and a new peace. This peace has its roots in the Jewish idea of shalom, which means wholeness. To be whole means that one has right relations with God, with other persons, and with oneself. Shalom is very different than Pax Romana.
The offer of peace is extended to “those with whom God is pleased. So, while this peace that He is offering is available to all people – a decision must be made to accept or reject it. (we’ll be coming back to that in a moment)
Let’s finish up the story first. Verse 15
15When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
There was an urgency for the shepherds – what they had been waiting for was finally here.
16They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger.
Just as the angel had said. And once the shepherds confirmed it by sight – verse 17
17After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished,
The shepherds now had the good news – understood the good news (although not to the fullest yet) and they couldn’t wait to share it with everyone else! When you have news as amazing and powerful as this you had to share it – there is an urgency to share it – we need to take a lesson from the shepherds.
19but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.
Mary knew – I believe she already had a faith and an understanding of what her son had come to do. And although this meant a very difficult road for her – she was determined and resolute – what an amazing young woman she must have been.
20The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.
What an amazing story! The shepherds were the first to be told – these young scruffy kids were the first to be told of the birth of the messiah – the Christ – the one who would change the world forever – and the part of the His kingdom that the angels choose to focus on – is His peace. This is something the shepherds were looking for – searching for – true peace. Not the pseudo peace offered by the roman government – but the real peace that had eluded them and all of God’s people since the entrance of sin into the world. And that same peace is extended to us today. And it is a peace that is only possible if you choose to accept it. If you choose to accept and surrender to Him who offers it. Jesus story does not end with the shepherds – that is just the beginning – because we know that he takes all of our sin – all of our baggage and hangs it on a cross with Him – dying on that cross so that we can be right with God. And that Is peace – being right with God.
And once we have that peace – we can be right with ourselves – right with others and right with the world. That is peace.
Peace is possible for all people – even you. And peace is possible for you today.
Right here and right now.
If you have surrendered your life to Christ – then you have access to the peace that surpasses all understanding…
Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
We live in a world full of anxiety and worry – study about teens depression and anxiety – it’s swirling around us – all of this stems from fear – and the opposite of peace is fear – and thru out scripture you will see peace preceded or followed by fear not or do not be afraid
The phrase do not be afraid appears 365 times in scripture – I think that’s telling us something – fear not – have peace – I am with you – I’ve got your back
Peace was a part of 3 significant moments in Jesus life –
At his birth – which we just talked about
It was also the first thing he said to his disciples after his resurrection
That Sunday evening[a] the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. John 20:19
And as he talks to His disciples about his ascension
27“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So, don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27
The NIV says –
“Peace I leave with you; MY peace I give you.”
Not the world’s peace – but HIS peace – He leaves it with them as though it were a possession – something for them to have and to hold
Something for you as His followers to have – peace
He left us the Holy Spirit – who takes up residence in us
We have access to peace – but just as any spiritual discipline – it doesn’t always come easily
You have to practice peace.
Prayer – give him your worries and fears – I have to constantly remind myself – this message kept me up at night – I worry about my kids constantly – I have to consciously remind myself He has it – He is in control – give it over – do not be afraid – fear not – good news – great joy
Look for gratitude and joy – it is hard to worry or fear when you are looking for His blessings
Phone a friend – just as we need support from others in lots of areas – we need peace support too – have people praying for you
Meditate on scripture. Included verses on the app.
*****(Put these verses in the app only:
Isaiah 41:10, Psalm 56:3, Philippians 4:6-7, John 14:27, Timothy 1:7, 1 John 4:18, Psalm 94:19, Isaiah 43:1, Proverbs 12:25, Psalm 23:4, Joshua 1:9, Matthew 6:34, 1 Peter 5:6-7, Isaiah 35:4, Luke 12:22-26, Psalm 27:1, Psalm 55:22, Mark 6:50, Deuteronomy 31:6, Isaiah 41:13-14, Psalm 46:1, Psalm 118:6-7, Proverbs 29:25, Mark 4:39-40, Psalm 34:7, Mark 5:36)
And you must allow the Holy Spirit to enter in – give Him space to work – I mean truly invoke His presence
Penny’s cd story
I am at peace when I have let the Holy Spirit take control – when I have acknowledged my helplessness and need for Him – I can physically feel the weight lift off
Then I am at peace
*And I have seen this peace lived out in others – a few examples if time
I want to acknowledge that there are those of you that this idea of fear and worry and anxiety and depression run much deeper – that you have done all the practices I have mentioned and you are still desperate – God has given us doctors and medication and there are instances where this needs to be an option
But I do believe there are some of us that just haven’t exhausted all the tools that God has given us to access His peace.
It is available to us right here and now.
And because He has left us with His peace we are then called to be peacemakers.
Jesus continues speaking to His disciples in John chapter 20 – verse 21:
Again, he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me so I am sending you.” John 20:21
We are to go forth and spread peace to others – to the community – to the world.
Can you imagine what the world could be like if we – Christians – the people of God – the church – truly moved into the world with His peace? I believe healing would move into the broken places if we truly spread peace.
“God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9
God offers us peace thru Jesus and once we have surrendered to Him we are then called to go forth and bring peace to this broken world.
Peace is possible for all people – even you. And peace is possible for you today.
I realize that there are some of you in this room that have never experienced this peace that I am talking about – because you have never surrendered your life to Christ. You have never put your trust in Him – you have never given your anxiety – your worry – your fear to Him – you don’t know what a peace that surpasses all understanding feels like.
What are you waiting for? What is holding you back?
It is available to you right here – right now. Right now, the Holy Spirit is speaking to you – moving in you – don’t let this moment pass.
A thrill of hope – He wants to break thru your weary heart with a burst of new hope – new peace – new joy
This could be a brand-new Christmas for you – one that you have never experienced before
I feel so emotional about this because I want it so badly for you. I know what this peace is and I cannot imagine living without it – I want you to know it too
And we want to make that happen for you right now.
Jesus made it possible for us to be right with God.
You just have to surrender – surrender to
The messiah in the manger
The savior on the cross
The Lord of the empty tomb
And accept the peace that is only available thru Him…